Identifying the causes of change
We know that biodiversity is changing, and we can identify trends and directions in this change. In some cases we can attribute these to factors such as climate change, agricultural expansion, urbanization or pollution, but the underlying causes of change are rarely clear and simple. Many factors interact to cause the changes we see, and the results may be unpredictable.
In order to respond effectively to negative changes, we need to know what causes them. If ecosystem health is declining, what are the most important drivers of that change? How will those drivers interact and manifest themselves over time? Will declines continue to be gradual, or are there tipping points, beyond which irreversible change occurs?
To answer such questions we use sophisticated models to recreate the dynamics and causality of biodiversity change. This enables us to understand where we are now and to extrapolate ahead to the future, in order to predict the likely causes and results of change over time.
The Nereus Program is a nine-year, international research partnership dedicated to developing an interdisciplinary approach to the promotion of sustainable fisheries. As part of this project, researchers at UNEP-WCMC are using species distribution models to explore the impacts of climate change on marine fish and invertebrates, and seeking to untangle the multitude of ecological, oceanographic, political and socio-economic factors that drive changes in fisheries production. This aims to allow accurate predictions of future yields to be made, forming the basis for effective and sustainable management plans.
See also our featured work on Building biodiversity models.